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Palestinian President Demands US Clarifications on Indirect Talks | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin) has stated that the [Palestinian] Authority [PA] is waiting for US clarifications to specific questions about the indirect negotiations with Israel and denied that these clarifications are Palestinian conditions for accepting the US proposal. Speaking during a visit to Japan, Abu-Mazin explained that he was waiting for the US response to his questions and said his government would be keeping the door open until it hears from Washington.

Salih Raafat, member of the PLO Executive Committee, told Asharq al-Awsat that Abu-Mazin asked Washington for three clarifications, the first of which is its stand on the proposed issues for negotiations. According to Raafat, US Envoy George Mitchell proposed to undertake shuttle trips between the two sides to convey the viewpoints on the main issues like the borders, Jerusalem, and other ones and Abu-Mazin told him so what is your viewpoint of these issues.

The second issue was that “the negotiations should start with the borders issue after the US administration informs us of its stand on it.” He added that “there was a summing up of the borders by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who said they include the territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and the [Jordan] valley.” The third issue is that the negotiations should be subject to a timetable which does not exceed four months and that the US administration should voice its stand and decide the borders issue if the negotiations failed to reach an agreement. Raafat said: “What comes after these shuttle trips if we do not reach an agreement.”

The PLO official rejected the term “indirect negotiations” and said these would not be Turkish-style negotiations “but Mitchell will move between President Abu-Mazin and (Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu. They are just shuttle trips.”

Abu-Mazin is expecting Mitchell to bring him more clarifications one week from now and he will in turn brief Arab leaders and the Arab follow-up committee on what will be presented to him.

Mahmud Ismail, also a PLO Executive Committee member, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the PA is waiting for the Arab stand, which is closer to agreeing that Mitchell should start his shuttle trips and said Mitchell would remain in the region for a period of time during which he will travel between Ramallah and Tel Aviv if he receives the Palestinian agreement to start his roundtrips. He added: “But this should not take more than four months. They (the Americans) believe they are capable of ending the stalemate in the issues.”

In other news, Israeli warplanes bombed several sites in southern Gaza overnight in response to rocket fire from the Hamas-run enclave, the army and Palestinian medics said on Wednesday.

No one was wounded or killed in the strikes, which destroyed an abandoned building in Gaza’s only airport, according to medics.

The airport was shut down and largely destroyed after the outbreak of the 2000 Palestinian uprising, or intifada, and has not been used since.

The attacks came in response to rocket fire from the impoverished enclave over the past several days, the army said in a statement. The rocket fire did not cause any casualties.

Israel has repeatedly targeted the vast network of tunnels used to smuggle food and construction materials as well as weapons from Egypt into Gaza, which has been under a punishing blockade since Hamas seized control there in June 2007.

Gaza’s borders have been mostly quiet since a devastating Israeli offensive in December 2008 and January 2009. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day war.